A legal guardian is an adult with the legal authority to care for someone else, called their ward. Legal guardians are responsible for the health and well-being of their ward. This encompasses everything that impacts the person’s life, including: doctor’s visits, school, financial responsibility, transportation, housing, and supplying groceries. People who require guardianship often fall into 3 different categories:
- Incapacitated Seniors
- Developmentally Disabled Adults
- Minor Children
Most often, guardianship cases handle the rights of a minor child whose biological parent(s) is unable to care for them. In many cases, legal guardianship can be granted to a stepparent, grandparent, or other close relative who is willing to take on the responsibility of caring for all of a child’s needs.
As a biological parent, it is important to consider ahead of time whom you want to be your child’s legal guardian in the unfortunate circumstance of your untimely death. The best way for a biological parent to establish guardianship of a child is to include it in your will, where you identify one person as a guardian and another as an alternative. The alternative guardian would be used in the instance that the first person is not able to assume the responsibilities of legal guardianship. There are a few items to take into account when choosing a legal guardian for your child:
- The guardian must be a legal adult.
- They must be physically able to fulfill the responsibilities of guardianship.
- They must have ample time to care for the child(ren).
- They must be financially able to care for your child(ren), whether through their own income or through assets left for the purpose of child care.
How to Become a Legal Guardian
In order to become a legal guardian, you are either selected by the child’s biological parents or are a court-appointed guardian. To begin, a petition is filed with the court. Once the paperwork has been submitted, the court will usually conduct an interview with the prospective guardian, the child’s parents (if available), and any other concerned party. This process may also include a home study and background check for the prospective guardian. All of these steps are conducted to ensure the court that the legal guardianship change is in the best interest of the child.
If you are attempting to obtain legal guardianship of a child and the parent(s) are still living, parental consent is usually required. There can be exceptions to this rule in which a judge may grant legal guardianship to a relative or family member if the biological parent(s) are deemed unfit. Aside from having parental consent, other family members have the right to be notified of the change and may object to the change. You do not need consent from all family members, but their objection could sway the judge’s decision.
Is Guardianship of a Child Permanent?
Generally, the legal duties of a minor child’s guardian expire when the child turns 18. Guardianship rights may additionally be terminated if the legal guardian in question were to lose capacity to care for the child. In some instances, legal guardianship is intended to be temporary from the outset of the agreement. In that case, the parent(s) would regain their parental rights once certain conditions have been met.
You should carefully consider legal guardianship responsibilities. A minor child’s guardian must be capable and willing to provide for all of that child’s needs, from finances to education and health. If you are considering applying for legal guardianship in Texas, meet with a qualified family law attorney with experience. As a family law attorney with over 20 years of experience, Kelly J. Capps has supported many kinds of families in Central Texas. Capps Law Firm exclusively practices family law and provides that depth of expertise to all of our clients.